Rock Wall: Not Hard to Like

There’s a lot to like about Rock Wall Wines, but there are also a few downsides.

It’s the closest working winery to my home, but there are no captivating vistas of vine-covered hillsides in sight.

The ownership pedigree is blue-chip, but will the succeeding generation be able to carry on the tradition?

The view is drop-dead spectacular, if you can overlook the huge expanse of cracked and overgrown concrete just off the lovely deck.

San Francisco Skyline from Rock Wall

If you  don’t like wine, there’s a handy, high-octane alternative — a neighbor (Hangar One distillery) who makes booze in another abandoned Navy building nearby.

The best reason to visit Rock Wall, however, is to taste the wines. The winery’s tasting room is open to the public Thursday-Sunday, Noon-6 p.m.

New Tasting Room

I dropped by earlier this week to get a sneak peek at the new Rock Wall tasting room and sample some of the newest releases.

The public christening of the tasting room and the adjacent special events center is happening this weekend.

Ahoy, Alameda

The working end of the winery is housed inside an old airplane hangar at the former Alameda Naval Air Station, which began operation in 1940 and closed for good in 1997.

The tasting room is in a new building that sits between the hangar and the activity center, a brilliant white geodesic dome that faces the striking San Francisco skyline.

Rock Wall Wines

One of two 8,000-yard runways on the base is a short walk from the winery’s rear deck.

The aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise is berthed nearby, at one end of the 2,300-acre base on the West End of Alameda, where the big warship attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Rock Solid Reds

The lineup of Rock Wall red wines is solid.

At the top sits an excellent 2009 reserve zinfandel, made from the prestigious Monte Rosso vineyard in Sonoma.

There’s a rich core of blackberry/raspberry fruit wrapped in a creamy smoothness that belies its young age.

The tannic structure is finely integrated, apparent but not overbearing. The berry fruits yielded to cherry overtones as I rolled the wine around my tongue.

I can’t wait to taste it in six months to a year to see how much complexity it can develop.

Shauna Rosenblum

I also liked the 2009 Obsidian, a 50-50 blend of zinfandel and petite sirah that provides a juicy mouthful of good taste.

The fruit for this $20 wine comes from Lake County.

The combination of fresh raspberry and blackberry tastes from the zin with the petite sirah heft makes for a winning wine in my book.

It probably doesn’t hurt a bit that the winemaker added a splash of extra zin from the Rockpile area of Sonoma to push the flavor profile a bit higher.

Overview

Kent Rosenblum, who sold his namesake Alameda winery to beverage conglomerate Diageo for $105 million in 2008, is the consulting winemaker at Rock Wall, which started operations that same year and is run by his daughter, Shauna Rosenblum.

The Rosenblums’ current venture is located about a mile from the old Rosenblum Cellars winery, where all that’s left is a tasting room and storage facility. The winemaking is now done at other Diaego facilities in California.

The 40,000-square-foot hangar where Rock Wall wines are made is a production facility shared with a lineup of boutique wineries (including Blacksmith, Carica, R & B Cellars, JRE Wines, and Ehrenberg Cellars) that make wine in a collegial atmosphere.

It’s a fun place that combines an easy-going, low-key attitude with  high-quality wines.

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